A low fat diet involves eating mostly wholesome foods that are naturally low in fat, fat free, or have had their fat content partially or completely stripped through food processing. Typically, foods with no more than 3 grams of fat per serving are considered low-fat.
However, you should not go to the extremes and avoid all fats. Some fats are good for you. They help you absorb fat-soluble vitamins, keep your cell membranes fluid and healthy, and they also protect you from diseases like cancer. To make smart dietary decisions, you first have to understand the basic types of fat and how each type affects your body. There are four major categories of fat:
The No. 1 “bad” fat to avoid in your diet is trans fat. Often referred to as partially hydrogenated oil, trans fats can be found in shortenings and oils that are used for frying. They are also used to increase the shelf-life of a product. They have absolutely no nutritional value and can be detrimental to your heart. Intake of trans fats can raise the low density lipoproteins (LDL) concentration in blood, and increase your risk of coronary heart diseases. It is also known to induce Alzheimer’s, diabetes and cancer onset.
There are many campaigns to prohibit the use of trans fats in restaurants and food services, but only certain cities and states have implemented this regulation. To strive for zero intake of trans fat, avoid ordering deep fried foods and pastries when you dine in restaurants, and read all food labels to make sure they do not contain partially hydrogenated oils.
Saturated fats are a little safer for your health than trans fats, but you should still keep your intake to a minimum. Saturated fats are fully bonded with hydrogen, making them more stable under higher temperatures. Saturated fats are used as substitutes for trans fats in deep frying and baking.
Saturated fats occur naturally in all living matter, but are found in much greater proportion in palm oil, coconut oil, cottonseed oil and animal based products like lard, butter, creams and fatty meats. Intake of foods with high saturated fat content also increases your blood triglyceride and cholesterol levels. They are also known for causing heart diseases and cancer. Choosing lean white meats, fish, nuts and vegetarian sources of fat can help control your saturated fat intake.
Monounsaturated fat is the first of the two healthy fats you should look for in food. This type of fatty acid has a double- bonded carbon that enables its ability to bind and remove your blood LDL. Intake of foods like avocados, nuts, tea tree oil, olive oil and canola oil can help reduce your risk of plaque formation and heart diseases.
Polyunsaturated fats are the best for your health. These fatty acids contain more than one double bond, which strengthens their LDL reducing power. The most well-known polyunsaturated fats are the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that are richly found in cold water fish, nuts and seeds. Regular intake of these fats can effectively help reduce your cholesterol level, strengthen your blood vessels and improve your immunity against allergies, inflammation and cancer.